The talent myth

By David

In digital, we often hear that there is a skills shortage, we are either in it, or it is looming. We are told that schools and universities are not producing people with the necessary skills to flourish in the digital/information age. The burden is shifted onto companies to right this wrong. But developing people is something that few companies get right, hence the reason why companies aim to recruit the smartest people. Lean Enterprise quotes Malcolm Gladwell, he calls it the talent myth:

The talent myth assumes that people make organisations smart. More often than not, it’s the other way around…

Following this assumption we assume that companies are smart because the people in them are. There is truth is this, but it could absolve companies from the responsibility, and urgency, to transform into learning organisations. I’m reminded of stories about good people being snapped up by well known companies, either to disappear, or emerge disillusioned a few years later. W. Edwards Deming put it this way:

A bad system will beat a good person every single time.

If the skills can’t be found, get people that are hungry to learn and create an environment to support them, and the skills will follow. In the age of ubiquitous information the responsibility to grow lies with individuals, but equally, it is the responsibility of organisations to start thinking about the relationship between culture and performance:

Thus, organizational culture determines not just the productivity and the performance of the people working in it, but also their ability to gain new skills, their attitude to failure and new challenges, and their goals.